Now that railway services have been extended to Redmire a wide network of routes becomes available for walkers choosing to arrive by train.
Distance: 8 miles
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: well-signed field paths
Refreshments: Redmire, Bolton Castle, Aysgarth
OS Explorer Map OL30
Originally published: 5 October 2007
Our 8 mile moorland and valley walk starts from here and takes in two of Wensleydale's outstanding attractions, Bolton Castle and Aysgarth Falls. Walk along the stony lane past the present terminus and in about 300 yards go straight over a tarred road on to a footpath. This soon crosses Apedale Beck by a sturdy bridge and continues parallel to the trackbed which the Wensleydale Railway Association eventually hopes to restore.
In about 400 yards you will get your first glimpse of the mighty towers of Bolton Castle. Go half right here on a well defined path up across fields and into Castle Bolton. Turn left along the village street towards the castle.
It was built by Richard le Scrope in 1379 and is one of the finest of the new palace fortresses which came into fashion during the long period of the wars with Scotland. In the 16th century Elizabeth I decided it was suitable as a residence for Mary, Queen of Scots who, a year earlier, had fled into exile in England. Mary was allowed much liberty and had a retinue of 40 to maintain her royal status, but her stay lasted only 6 months. Being suspected of plotting against her cousin, she was removed in mid winter to the more secure Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire. If you have time it's worth a visit if only to experience how people of substance lived some 600 years ago. The views along the dale, too, are panoramic and would have given ample warning of the approach of enemies.
Our route continues along the track from the castle past the tiny 14th century parish church. Some 200 years ago this was part of a drovers' route which avoided the three tolls on the valley road. It led from the upper dale to the busy cattle fairs at Middleham and Masham. For some two miles there are outstanding views south across to Penhill and up Bishopdale and Waldendale.
The way is easy to follow. After three gates it enters open moorland and beyond the farm buildings of Sheep Wash passes through a small plantation before turning south across the moor for half a mile to Low Gate.
We leave the drove road here and go left down a track into Carperby. Once a market town, this straggling village still has its 17th century cross perched on an imposing stepped base. Go right, along the main street. Immediately opposite the Wheatsheaf Inn turn left on to a path which passes to the right of a barn in the second field before reaching Low Lane. Continue straight ahead but look for a stile on the right in the first field. Beyond this, stiles mark a diagonal course across more fields to a wood. Go through the wood to the Carperby to Aysgarth road and turn left. Follow the road under the disused railway bridge down to Aysgarth Bridge. The roaring waters of High Force can be heard long before you see them. The artist JMW Turner was inspired by the scene and the 18th century writer Richard Pococke considered the falls greater than the cataracts on the Nile.
After savouring the grandeur return along the road and in about 200 yards take a path on the right, signed through trees to the Middle and Lower Falls. The spectacle continues as the peat coloured foaming waters of the Ure cascade over a quarter of a mile gorge of tangled rocks.
After all this turmoil tranquillity returns as you continue along the path which goes left up from the Lower Force, emerges from the wood and crosses fields to Hollin House. Go through the farmyard and, after some 50 yards on the access track, fork right. After two fields a sign points right to Castle Bolton. Follow this path, leaving High Thoresby Farm a field away to your left.
After crossing two fields you will enter the narrow, tree lined Thoresby Lane. In about 200 yards, at a primitive clapper bridge, you join a similar lane coming in from the right. This is almost certainly the medieval way from Bishopdale and the south to Bolton Castle. It crosses the Ure at Slapestone Wath, (slippery ford), about a quarter of a mile away, a rewarding side excursion in its own right if you have the time and enjoy exploring little used historic rights of way.
Our walk, however, continues along Thoresby Lane, bordered here by ancient hedges which afford the occasional view of the great looming towers of the castle up on its hillside.
From Low Thoresby the lane is tarred but still deep set between high banks. Continue along it to Low Bolton on the Carperby to Redmire road where turn right. After crossing Apedale Beck take the first path on the left which leads back into Redmire. In the long first field look out for a squeeze through stile on the right after about 150 yards. Turn right after the stile and this will bring you back into the village.
Go left when you reach the houses and on to the green with its mature trees and the base of an ancient cross. To return to the starting point go to the left of Ivy Cottage at the far left hand corner of the green. It's a short pull from here up to the station.